Email Quick Assist

This article provides an introduction to using Mail in Mac OS X.

Email Quick Assist


OS X makes it easy to send and receive email with a built-in email application called Mail. All you need is access to the Internet and an email account, which is usually provided with your Internet account or via an email service provider.

The first time you open Mail, OS X helps you automatically configure it for your email account. You may need to enter the information provided by your email service provider (we have a "cheat sheet" here you can use to collect the necessary information, if needed).

You can set up additional email accounts in Mail at any time. For more information about setting up email accounts in Mail, see Mac 101: Mail.

Once you've got your account(s) set up, you're ready to send and receive email.

Sending email messages with Mail

  1. Create a new message
    Open Mail. Click the New button in the Mail toolbar. (Or, from the File menu, choose New Message.)
  2. Address your recipient
    In the To field, type your recipient's email address (it should look something like To send a message to more than one person, insert a comma between each address in the To field, or enter additional addresses in the Cc (short for “carbon copy”) field. If you want to send a copy of your message without your other recipients knowing, you can also put an address into the Bcc (short for “blind carbon copy”) field. To display this field, from the View menu, choose Bcc Address Field.
  3. Write your message
    Type something brief in the Subject field that summarizes what your message is about, and then type your message in the body of the message (the big white space below your account name). Your account should appear in the Account pop-up menu.
  4. Send
    When you're done typing your message, click Send to email your message.

For more information, see Mac 101: Mail. Additionally, all Macs come with built-in Mac Help that provides step-by-step instructions to do many activities on your computer. To find out more information about using Mail, open Mail and from the Help menu, choose Mail Help.

Receiving email

  • Checking for mail manually
    By default, Mail will automatically check for new messages whenever you first open Mail. To check for new mail at any time, click Get Mail in the toolbar. This will check email in all of your accounts. If you have multiple accounts and just want to check one of them, choose Mailbox > Get New Mail > account to check for mail in a particular account.
  • Have Mail check automatically
    To set Mail to check for messages automatically, choose Preferences from the Mail menu, then click General in the resulting window. From the "Check for new mail" pop-up menu, choose a desired time interval. You can also choose a sound from the "New messages sound" pop-up menu to alert you that new mail has arrived.
  • Sending and receiving attachments
    You or your buddies may want to send documents, photos, or other files to each other, and Mail makes this easy by way of attachments. To send a file to someone, simply drag the file onto the message window to attach it and then send the message. To save a file from a message sent to you, drag the attached file from the email message to your desktop or other location.

For more information, see Mac 101: Mail. Additionally, all Macs come with built-in Mac Help that provides step-by-step instructions to do many activities on your computer. To find out more information about using Mail, open Mail and from the Help menu, choose Mail Help.

If you're having difficulty sending or receiving email, read on for some things to try.

Top troubleshooting tips

  • Can't send or receive email?
    If you're having issues sending or receiving email, see Troubleshooting sending and receiving email.
  • Use the Connection Doctor
    The Connection Doctor can check your server connections. In Mail, choose Connection Doctor from the Window menu. If it finds any trouble, it'll display a red Status indicator next to the problematic account and provide some information and advice in the Details column. If you see a red indicator, follow the doctor's advice to try and fix the issue. See Troubleshooting sending and receiving email for more information.
  • Make sure that you're connected to the Internet
    To send and receive email, your Mac must be connected to the Internet. To verify that your connection is working, open a web browser and visit any website. If your Internet connection doesn't appear to be working, see the Internet Quick Assist to get it back up and running.
  • Make sure that you're not being blocked by a firewall
    If you or a network administrator has a firewall blocking email traffic on port 25, 465, or 587, you may not be able to send email. If you've installed third-party firewall software in Mac OS X, try temporarily disabling it to see if you can send email. There may also be firewall software built into your Internet router, or a router administered by your ISP or network administrator. Contact the appropriate person to find out if a firewall exists.
  • Send yourself an email
    If you can send email from your account but you're not sure if you can receive any, send yourself an email. Your message will go out through your outgoing mail server and back in through your incoming mail server. After sending yourself a test email, wait a minute or so for the servers to send the data, then click Get Mail. If you don't get your own email after waiting about 15 minutes, try these other tips.
  • See if your account is using the email servers
    To check if all servers are in use by your accounts, open Mail preferences, click Accounts, then click Account Information. From the Outgoing Mail Server (SMTP) pop-up menu, choose Edit Server List to display a list of servers. If you see an entry in the “In Use By Account” column for a server, that server is in use. If you have any servers listed that don't have an entry in this column, select the server, click Remove Server, and then click Done. If you see that your affected account isn't “In Use,” reset your server settings.
  • Make sure that your email account isn't offline
    If Mail can't connect to and access your account's incoming server when it checks for messages, it will take your account offline. Take a look at your Inbox icon. If it appears dimmed or you see an exclamation point or tilde-looking icon (~) next to it or one of your account names (if you have more than one account), try taking it back online. Click the icon to the right of the affected account's name or select the account and choose Mailbox > Online Status > Take “account name” Online.

Additional Information

Still having issues?

If the tips above don't resolve your issue, here are some other things to try:

Last Modified: Aug 15, 2012
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